Monday, October 31, 2011

Mailbox Monday-Oct. 31

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is Savvy Verse and Wit so head on over there to see what everyone else received or to play along!

I only received one book in my mailbox this week:

I haven't read anything by Umrigar yet, so I am looking forward to this one!  How about you...any surprises in your mailbox?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Audiobook Review: To Be Sung Underwater by Tom McNeal

Title:  To Be Sung Underwater
Author:  Tom McNeal
Narrator:  Susan Boyce
Unabridged Length:  15 hrs, 15 mn.

Here is a summary of the book from the Hachette website:

Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio." Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford. When Judith left home, she didn't look back.

Twenty years later, Judith's marriage is hazy with secrets. In her hand is what may be the phone number for the man who believed she meant it when she said she loved him. If she called, what would he say?

TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER is the epic love story of a woman trying to remember, and the man who could not even begin to forget.

My Review:
When this audiobook starts out, it seems that Judith is unhappy with the direction that her life has taken her.  She appears to have a beautiful family after marrying her college sweetheart and having a lovely daughter.  But after suspecting that her husband is having an affair she can't help but wonder if she passed up her one chance for true love long ago.

Although this story takes place in present day, Judith reflects back on her teenage years when she met young Willy Blunt.  We find out how her relationship with her parents helped to shape her into the person that she has become.  After her parents divorce, Judith seems to lose touch with her mother when it seems that living with her father would be in her best interests.

It is during the time that Judith is living with her father when paths cross with Willy.  They fall in love at such a young age and while Willy seems to already have a life for himself in a small town, Judith is thinking about college and where that life may take her.  She just isn't sure if she can live with herself if she doesn't move forward to a prospective future.

I don't want to give any more of this audiobook away, but I will tell you that Judith was not happy with the person that she has become.  It seemed to me that she even tried to reinvent herself, which was a part of the story that I just did not understand and found a bit unnecessary.  But Judith finds that she must confront her past and accept the decisions that she has made in order to move on with her life.

This audiobook was narrated by Susan Boyce, who I feel did not attribute much to the story itself.  As I was listening to the story I thought to myself several times that this may be a book that I would have enjoyed actually "reading" rather than listening to.  Overall I did enjoy this novel with themes of true love, secrets, and family obligations.

My Rating:  3/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Teaser Tuesday-Oct. 25

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading. TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls:
Mom had read somewhere that mayonnaise was good for our hair, and the morning the photographer was coming to school, she slathered a few spoonfuls on mine.  She didn't realize you were supposed to wash out the mayonnaise, and in the picture that year I was peering out from under one stiff shingle of hair.

pg. 76

Monday, October 24, 2011

Winners of The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent!

I'm very excited to share with you all the winners of the Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent!
First of all, the winner of both The Heretic's Daughter and The Traitor's Wife is.....

And then I also have two more lucky winners that have won a copy of The Traitor's Wife:

Congratulation to all of the winners and thank you to all who stopped by to enter!  I will be emailing you shortly to get your mailing information to forward to the publisher. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blog Tour, Review, and Giveaway: Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shepard

First of all I need to thank Trish once again from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to be a part of this tour.  Isn't the cover of this book beautiful?  I must admit to you that even though I hate Fall, I would love to be walking down this lane with the leaves crunching under my feet.  I'm even giving a copy of this book away at the end of this post.

Here is a summary of the novel from the Harper Collins website:
A recently widowed mother of two, Sylvie Bates-McAllister finds her life upended by a late-night phone call from the headmaster of the prestigious private school founded by her grandfather where her adopted son Scott teaches. Allegations of Scott's involvement in a hazing scandal cause a ripple effect, throwing the entire family into chaos. For Charles, Sylvie's biological son, it dredges up a ghost from the past who is suddenly painfully present. For his wife Joanna, it forces her to reevaluate everything she's hoped for in the golden Bates-McAllisters. And for Scott, it illuminates harsh truths about a world he has never truly felt himself a part of. 

But for all the Bates-McAllisters, the call exposes a tangled web of secrets that ties the family together: the mystery of the school hazing, the event that tore Charles and Scott apart the night of their high school awards ceremony, and the intended recipient of a certain bracelet. The quest to unravel the truth takes the family on individual journeys across state lines, into hospitals, through the Pennsylvania woods, and face-to-face with the long-dormant question: what if the life you always planned for and dreamed of isn't what you want after all?

My Review:
This story brings us into the lives of a privileged American family as they are struggling to try to hold onto the life that they know.  Sylvie was fortunate enough to inherit her grandfather's mansion early on in her marriage, but I don't think that she realized how this windfall would impact her family life.  Her grandfather worked hard building the family business and making a name for himself and was quite an asset to the local community.  When the private high school was about to shut down, he bailed them out, resulting in becoming the lead shareholder from the endeavor.

It seemed to me that the family's involvement with the private school, Swithin, was where many of the problems unfolded for this family.  Sylvie always said that if it weren't for her grandfather, Swithin would not even be here today.  She finds herself becoming troubled when she hears of how her grandfather treated the less privileged people in their community.  She has to come to terms with the fact that her grandfather was not the upstanding citizen that she always thought.

As Sylvie is dealing with the new revelations about her grandfather, she is also still mourning the loss of her husband.  It hasn't been that long since he passed away in such a quick and swift manner, and it seemed that they left so many things unspoken and unanswered.  Sylvie had suspected that he was having an affair but she really had no idea who he was seeing or even the extent of their relationship.

Sylvie's sons seemed to have suffered the most growing up under the McAllister name.  Scott was adopted by the Bates-McAllister's at a young age and their father seemed to show more love and understanding to him than to their older son Charles.  This created turmoil between the two brothers throughout their lives that they never seemed to be able to overcome.  All of their relationships are pushed to the boiling point during a high school celebration when Scott uncovers a secret that leaves their relationships torn and tattered.

After that high school blow out all of the family members just seem to be living life day to day, without plans of improving themselves or moving on in any way.  It was so sad to see this family stuck in a kind of limbo that wouldn't allow them to experience any happiness.  When Scott finds himself the center of an investigation at the Swithin private school, each of the family members start to evaluate their lives and the events that have happened since that long ago afternoon.  Confronting the past and their own demons will help each of them move on to being the people that they really want to be.

This was a good story, but there was something within the pages that I just didn't love.  It certainly isn't a feel good book, but that has not prevented me from enjoying stories in the past.  Maybe it was the fact that I have always believed that if you just give children whatever they want in life, you are helping them to fail.  This family obviously had everything handed to them on a silver platter, and their lives may have looked fine and dandy from the outside, but from the inside they were being ripped to shreds.   I only touched on a few of the relationship issues that were apparent in this novel, but even though I didn't love it, I still think that this novel would make a good book club discussion with themes of families, secrets, and revelations.

My Rating: 3/5

Disclosure:  This e-book was provided to me by the publisher through the Netgalley program in exchange for an honest review.

Now for the giveaway!
I will be giving away one trade paperback copy of this book to give away.

To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and live in the U.S. or Canada. No PO Boxes please.

For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.

For two additional entries, blog about this contest or add the link to your sidebar.

Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as myemail.address AT gmail DOT com or myemail.address [at] gmail [dot] com.

You will have until November 10th to enter and I will draw for a winner on or after November 11th.

Good luck Everyone!

**This giveaway is closed.**

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Blogiversary Giveaway!

I'm so happy to share with everyone that this week marks three years that I have been blogging and sharing my thoughts about all of the books that I read.  When I think back to that first post so long ago, I must admit that I really didn't know what was in store for me.  I can tell you that everyone in the blogging community has been amazing!  I am thankful to all of you-readers, publishers, fellow bloggers, authors, and publicists.  Blogs would mean nothing without any of you! 

I know that since I started my new job in March I haven't had the opportunity to visit many of your blogs as often as I would like.  Rest assured that I do make it over there eventually, even if it is a delayed arrival!   I have been trying to do a little housekeeping over here at Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!!  I'm working on cleaning up my blogroll by deleting some links that just aren't there any longer, and updating the actual link address for those of you that changed where your blog is actually located.  I actually even stopped following a few blogs that didn't have any activity within the last year.  Harsh, I know, but changes need to be made!

I'm planning on starting a writing workshop this week to hopefully help me compile my thoughts in a more organized manner.  Sometimes I read what I posted at a later date and say to myself "What were you thinking!"  Maybe I will even share with all of you the progress that I make with this workshop.

In celebration of the occasion today I think it is only appropriate to have a GIVEAWAY!  Fun, fun, fun!

 The 1st place winner will win a $20 gift card from Amazon!

The 2nd and 3rd place winners will have their choice of one of the following gently read ARC's from my shelf:

The Map of True Places by Brunonia Barry

Guernica by Dave Boling

The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy

The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard

The Life O'Reilly by Brian Cohen

Well I think this is a pretty good assortment of books for the giveaway.  So here is how you can enter:
To enter this contest you must be at least 18 and live in the U.S. or Canada.

For one entry leave me a comment including your email address below.

For two additional entries, blog about this contest or add the link to your sidebar.

Please include your email so I will have a way to contact you if you win. Use a spam-thwarting format such as myemail.address AT gmail DOT com or myemail.address [at] gmail [dot] com.

You will have until October 27th to enter and I will draw for winners on or after October 28th.  I'm making this a short giveaway so whoever wins the Amazon gift card can take advantage of the specials that are offered through Harper this month.  You can find out more about that here.

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

October E-Book Specials From Harper!

Did you all know that all of these E-Books are available through the month of October for only $2.99?  This is a fabulous price and I personally will be jumping on this bargain!  Harper is running this special in honor of National Reading Month and you can find out more about how you can participate in this event here.

I also suggest heading over to Book Club Girl to see how she is helping to celebrate this event!
And just an FYI, these books are available from Amazon, B&N, the ibookstore, the Google bookstore, and from all indies that sell e-books through Google.  Happy shopping!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mailbox Monday-Oct. 17

GO PACK GO!!!!!!
Another win under the belt of the Packers...Woohoo!!!!  Anyway, on to the mailbox!
Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is Savvy Verse and Wit so head on over there to see what everyone else received or to play along!

There was only this book in my mailbox last week:

I'm kind of excited to only have received one book in the mail as I am planning on catching up on some of the review copies that I already have.  I've made a decision not to accept any more review requests for the rest of this year, or even participate in blog tours.  This should help me get back on track anyway.  So how about you?  Was there anything fun in your mailbox?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Audiobook Review: Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

Title:  Silver Girl
Author:  Elin Hilderbrand
Narrators:  Janet Metzger, Marianne Fraulo
Unabridged Length:  14 hrs, 28 mn.

Here is a summary of Silver Girl from the Hachette website:
Meredith Martin Delinn just lost everything: her friends, her homes, her social standing - because her husband Freddy cheated rich investors out of billions of dollars.

Desperate and facing homelessness, Meredith receives a call from her old best friend, Constance Flute. Connie's had recent worries of her own, and the two depart for a summer on Nantucket in an attempt to heal. But the island can't offer complete escape, and they're plagued by new and old troubles alike. When Connie's brother Toby - Meredith's high school boyfriend - arrives, Meredith must reconcile the differences between the life she is leading and the life she could have had.

Set against the backdrop of a Nantucket summer, Elin Hilderbrand delivers a suspenseful story of the power of friendship, the pull of love, and the beauty of forgiveness.

My Review:
This is the second Hilderbrand novel that I have listened to as an audiobook, so can I just start by saying that I really would love to spend a summer vacation in Nantucket!  Whether her characters are living in a beautiful mansion or a rustic cabin, Hilderbrand brings out the dynamics of family and friends in a way that makes my heart yearn for more.

Meredith and Connie had a rift in their friendship years ago, but when Meredith finds she has no-one else to turn to, she takes a chance by escaping from her trauma with the only person that hasn't shunned her.  As Connie is getting ready to spend the summer in her beautiful Nantucket home, she invites Meredith to join her.  Since Connie has still been mourning the loss of her husband, she is nervous about all the publicity that could come along with her new roommate so they try to keep Meredith's presence known from as many people as possible.

There is still tension between Meredith and Connie as their broken friendship never really had a chance to recover earlier on.  While both of these women are dealing with their own demons and issues, they must once again learn to trust and confide in each other so they both can move on with their lives.  The men they both loved and trusted have been ripped away from them and it seems that they need to come to terms with their lives and friendship before they can open their hearts again.

As both of these women come to terms with their lives, we find out exactly how they got to the place that has caused so much turmoil.  Meredith recalls periods of her life with Freddy and even though she fell in love with him, she slowly learns that most of Freddy's attention to her was just a front to get him further ahead with his investors.  Connie misses and loves her husband, but she can't seem to stop blaming herself for his death and the fractured relationship that she has with her daughter.  Since Meredith and Connie both feel alone in their misery they really do not have any other choice than to seek comfort from each other.

I love novels that show how important it is to have strong female relationships.  With themes of love, friends, heartbreak, and loss this novel really does have a lot to offer.  And within the story Connie even gives Meredith a couple of cooking lessons that leave you salivating!  I would have loved to read this book while lounging on a beach somewhere, but I also think it would make a great book club selection.

My Rating:  4/5

Disclosure:  This audiobook was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wondrous Words Wednesday-Oct. 12

Bermudaonion asks you to share new words that you have learned during your reading adventures in the last week. Feel free to join in the fun!

Here are a few new words I learned while reading Testimony by Anita Shreve:

Paroxysmal: any sudden, violent outburst; a fit of violent action or emotion.

Here is how paroxysmal was used on page 6:
Mike closed his eyes, not wanting to watch this particular boy have his own paroxysmal seizure.

Raconteur:  a person who is skilled in relating stories and anecdotes interestingly.

Here is how raconteur was used on page 63:
Owen was a raconteur and could hold forth on any number of topics.

Provenance:  place or source of origin.

Here is how provenance was used on page 93:
Back in his den, Mike stood up from the couch, intending to retrieve the small cassette from the movie camera and then to summon Arlene and Kasia to his office so that he could question them about the provenance of the tape.

Phalanx: a number of individuals, especially persons united for a common purpose.

Here is how phalanx was used on page 116:
When January 21 rolls around in about a month's time, there will be a phalanx of media trucks parked on the quad, and reporters will be interviewing every student willing to talk to them.

Well I must say that this is quite an abundance of new words that I have learned from this book so far, and I'm only halfway through it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Teaser Tuesday-Oct. 11

Check out Teaser Tuesdays from Should Be Reading.  TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

Grab your current read.

Let the book fall open to a random page.

Share with us two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!

This week my teaser is from Testimony by Anita Shreve:
Indeed, one of Mike's favorite pastimes was to stroll through a village and look into the windows of the houses and imagine who the people were and what they were doing.  Invariably, he had found, a home seemed more charming viewed from the outside in. 

pg. 32

Monday, October 10, 2011

What Are You Reading?

Sheila over at Book Journey hosts this meme that gives you the opportunity to share the books that you have been losing yourself in lately and also the ones that you are looking forward to picking up next.

Here is what I finished on my Kindle last week:
Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart was our latest book club selection.  I finished this novel on Tuesday night and our group met on Wednesday night to discuss it.  I will be posting my review later, but I can tell you that most of the ladies in my group loved this one.  I, on the other hand, did not love this one as it seemed just a bit "too sweet" for me.

So I decided to start reading this one:
Anita Shreve is one of my favorite authors and after just reading Angel Sister, I think that Testimony is just what the doctor ordered.  I love how Shreve doesn't sugar coat her stories and this one sure delivers a punch right off the bat.

Next up will be:
My next book club selection is The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls.  I figure I better get an early start on this one because it looks like it's going to be a pretty tense read.

Well that is what's keeping me busy lately.  I'm hoping to go see The Help in the next day or so with a couple of friends.  My devastating news last week was that I was informed that Club Read has been cancelled.  Man, I am just sooo bummed about this.  Do you know how much I was looking forward to attending my very first book event?  Well, it looks like it won't happen for at least another year now.  Oh well, Lord knows I have plenty to keep me busy in the meantime!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Historical Fiction Challenge Completed!

I am pleased to announce that I have completed the Historical Fiction Challenge this year that was hosted by Historical Tapestry!

I signed up for the challenge intending to read at least 5 historical fiction novels and as of today's date I have surpassed that goal.  If I happen to read more novels that fit into this challenge I will add the titles to this post.  You should be able to click on the title below to read my review if you are interested.  Here are the books that I read for the challenge:

1. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez--Completed 1/6/2011
2. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran--Completed 3/4/2011
3. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows--Completed 3/31/2011
4. Too Jewish by Patty Friedmann--Completed 6/27/11
5. Dreams of Joy by Lisa See--Completed 7/17/11
6. The Traitor's Wife by Kathleen Kent--Completed 8/19/11
7. The Soldier's Wife by Margaret Leroy--Completed 9/10/11
8. All the Flowers in Shanghai by Duncan Jepson--Completed 12/27/11

So even though I am concerned that I may not be able to finish one or two other challenges, at least this one is under my belt!  Did you happen to join this challenge or read any of the books I have listed here?  I am curious to hear how you are coming along in the challenge or what you thought of these titles.  I have to admit to you that I loved all of these books!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Review: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Here is a summary of the book from Kathryn Stockett's website:

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women--mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends--view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don't.

My Review:
This was such a wonderful story and I am so glad that I waited to read it as a book club selection, because I know that all of the ladies loved this novel so it is sure to be an eventful evening!  The story is told from the perspective of three different women in Jackson, Mississippi, when segregation in other parts of the United States is coming to an end, it is alive and in full force in Jackson.  

Miss Skeeter is one of our narrators who is an aspiring journalist that recently finished her college education.  A small door is opened for Miss Skeeter as she is offered to write a column for the local newspaper.  Although this is a step in the right direction she has so many more dreams for her writing career.  She just doesn't think those dreams will ever be realized if she can't ever get out of Jackson.  Skeeter has more liberal views than most of her family and friends so quite often she finds herself not being invited to social gatherings and before you know it is considered an outcast.  Her friends' attitudes help to spark the idea for a project that will get out the stories of the negro population in Jackson that will show the truth to the entire country.

Aibileen is a maid that works for a close friend of Skeeters and happens to be the first person that Skeeter turns to for help in her project.  Knowing that they could get in a heap of trouble Aibileen is hesitant to become involved in this endeavor as people have been beaten and killed for doing things much less threatening.  Aibileen is a strong woman with an amazing heart who lives alone as her son was killed in a terrible accident years ago.  I don't think that anyone could help but love Aibleen's character.

Minny is another maid who is also a good friend of Aibileen's.  Minny is another fabulous character who is an amazing woman but cannot seem to hold onto a job because her sassy mouth usually intervenes.  She is a hoot as she just tells things like they are.  Minny is especially nervous about helping out Skeeter as most of Jackson already has her blackballed because of her behavior.

There are some strong women that really put themselves out there for a cause that they truly believe in.  Skeeter earns the confidence of not only Aibleen and Minny, but also many of their friends.  As Skeeter makes choices both about her project and where her life is leading, she cuts herself off more from her lifelong friends.  Before you know it the only friends that Skeeter has left are the women that are helping her with her project.  Everyone else has deserted her, which only gives her more courage to do what she is doing.

This book gives us a glimpse of what it was like for the negro population during this difficult time for our country.  We are all human beings and no-one deserves to be treated like a second class citizen.  With themes of civil rights, courage, and friendship this book has so much to offer.  I honestly believe that every book club out there, male or female, young or old, should read this novel as it has something to offer for everyone!  I highly recommend this novel.

My Rating:  5/5

Disclosure:  This book is from my personal collection and I read it for my own entertainment.

You can read more great book reviews over at Cym Lowell's Book Review Party Wednesday!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Theme Thursday...on Tuesday!

I was very excited to see this meme that was started by Reading Between Pages that allows us to post about a different theme from the book that we are reading all week long.  Here is how it works:

  • theme will be posted each Thursday
  • Select a snippet with this weeks theme from the current book you are reading
  • Mention the author and the title of the book along with your post
This week the theme is about sorry/forgiveness and I found something that fits the bill while reading Angel Sister by Ann Gabhart:
Instead he had reached out to Kate with gentleness and forgiveness.  Two things Nadine had not often seen in her father.  Nadine wondered if he knew why Kate had asked for forgiveness.
pg. 189

Well I have to admit that I didn't get very far in reading this book on my day off yesterday.  Hopefully I get it done before book club tomorrow night!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mailbox Monday-Oct. 3

Mailbox Monday is a great meme that has us list the books that we receive.  Different bloggers now have the opportunity to host this meme for a month at a time. This month the host is Savvy Verse and Wit so head on over there to see what everyone else received or to play along!

So here is what was in my mailbox last week:

Everything We Ever Wanted by Sara Shephard

Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

The Descendants was actually an unexpected surprise, but hey, I'm not sending it back!  And since I already read Everything We Ever Wanted on my Kindle you can look forward to me giving this copy away when I post my review on October 20th.

Well I really need to try to get some reading done today as our book club meets on Wednesday and I'm not even halfway through our book...Yikes!